Choosing to be where we are
At one time, the Guinness brand was in trouble, sales in its biggest markets of Ireland and the UK were down, its owner, Diageo, was under increasing pressure from its shareholders to divest the brand. In the midst of this unrest, the director of the Guinness business, John Potter opened the annual conference with the question: “Why am I here?” and after a pause in which the audience was undoubtedly thinking to themselves, ‘yes – indeed. I wouldn’t want to be here if I were you’, he answered his own question with the simple answer: “Because there is nowhere I would rather be.” How many of us could honestly say that at most moments of the day let alone when facing an exceptionally difficult challenge?
Eugene O’Kelly, the former chief executive of KPMG went on a deep journey of reflection and discovery after being told he had only three months to live and, in his book about this experience ‘Chasing Daylight’, published posthumously, says, ‘I had come to wonder about the nature of commitment. In fact it’s not about time. It’s not about reliability and predictability. Commitment is about depth. It’s about effort. It’s about passion. It’s about wanting to be in a certain place and not somewhere else. Of course time is involved, it would be naive and illogical to suggest otherwise. But commitment is best measured not by the time one is willing to give up but more accurately, by the energy one wants to put in, by how present one is.’
Daydreaming is recommended by the US government as a way of coping if you have been taken hostage. Most of the time though we have a choice about the situations we are in and if we are not giving that situation the benefit of our full attention then we would be better off being somewhere else. The empty shell of someone’s physical presence when they do not want to be there is worse in many ways than physical absence.
The most effective people I have worked with, with hundreds of demands on their time, operate on the simple basis of where they are, they are. The pure attention of these people focused into a steady beam is incredibly powerful. Anything that prevents our being present is effectively a block on our personal freedom.
Don’t go anywhere grudgingly
Be selective about the situations you allow yourself to be in and make a pact with yourself to be 100% present to wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Practice feeling open and receptive, observe the people you are with, listen to what they are saying and to the messages between the words. If you chose to put your time into something then let the time be well spent.
“The sun, with all the planets revolving around it and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” Galileo Galilei
“At any moment, giving full attention to the one thing at hand is the hallmark of high performance.” David Allen